How A Junior Would Teach Bidding
(Page of 2)

Not long ago I was but a beginner, and I knew how challenging bidding was. I remember why some concepts stick better in my mind, while other concepts I always have trouble remembering. I don’t want anybody to experience the wrong way of teaching bidding.

Bridge is a game of logic, not memorization. Bidding should be approached that way. For example:

If one were to teach what 2NT would mean in this sequence: 1-1-2NT, some teachers might say it shows 18-19 points and stop there. Personally I would say it shows 18-19, because you could have opened 1NT to show 15-17, opened 2NT to show 20-21, and rebid 1NT to show 11-14. This makes everything so much easier to remember. All you have to memorize is what opening 1NT and 2NT would show, and from there, you can work out by logic what further sequences would mean.

Another example, explaining the difference between cuebids in similar situations:

W
N
E
S
1
1
P
2

vs.

W
N
E
S
1
1
1
P
2

Here, instead of telling the student to memorize that the first cuebid shows support, and the second cuebid is game-forcing but doesn't guarantee support, you should explain the reasoning.

For the first auction, if you bid 3 or 4, that would be preemptive. If you bid 2, that would be constructive. Logically, you need a way to show a limit raise or better hand, and thus the cuebid does that. But in the second auction, you don’t need the cuebid to show a stronger hand for spades. Why? Because you can jump to 3, 4, or splinter. In the first auction, you have not shown that you have any points yet, so your jump will be weak. However, in the second auction, you have already shown points, logically that means that 3 can’t be weak.  Since the jumps have different meanings, the cuebids do as well.

One more example:

W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
1NT
P
2
P
2
P
2

When teaching a new convention (2-way New Minor Forcing here), you should explain the reasoning behind playing it and why people play it. Here’s how I’ll explain it:

If you, as responder, have 5=2=4=2 shape and game-forcing values opposite an opener, you want to be in game. If partner has 3 spades, you want to be in 4. If partner has 2 spades, you want to be in 3NT. How do you figure out if partner has 2 or 3 spades? You can’t blast to 4 for you would overshoot 3NT, and if you bid 3NT how is partner supposed to figure out that you have 5?

If only we had a convention? Oh, we do! You can bid 2 as an artificial game-force to ask partner to describe his hand further (with emphasis on the majors). If partner bids 2 over 2, you know that shows 3 spades and not 4. Why? Because he would have raised to 2 on the previous round instead of rebidding 1NT.

Now, after partner bids 2 over your 2 (showing 4 hearts because he already denied 5 hearts from not opening 1 and not rebidding 2 earlier), your 2 rebid shows 6 spades, not 5. Why? Because your partner can use similar negative inferences to cater to your holding 5 spades when you bid 2NT.

Think about it. After partner bids 2, and you did not raise, that means you do not have 4 hearts. What other possible reasons could you have to bid 2 asking partner to describe his hand, as you could have bid 3NT if you did not care about partner’s hand. Maybe you were looking to see if partner could rebid 3m so that you could reach a minor-suit slam (Axxx Ax AKxx Qxx) but most of the time, you'll have a hand that wants to know if he has 3-card support.  Logically, after you bid 2NT after 2, partner will guess that you likely have 5 spades because you went through 2, so he will rebid 3 when he hasn't shown his 3-card support and you will get to the right game.

Conclusion:

Here is how I would teach bidding:

1. ALWAYS start with the disclaimer that there are many different ways of bidding. Some people play this system, some people play that system. Some people play this convention, some people play that. This is important because if the beginner decides to do some outside research themselves, they wouldn’t be as spooked when they see someone bidding 1 alerting it as 16+ HCP -- my mind blew up when I first heard of Precision!
2. Always remind them that point counts can vary by player.  Say this: The reason why we assign HCP to face cards is to assess the hand's trick-taking potential. Logically, if this long suit gives this hand more trick-taking potential, you would want to bid as if you had more HCP! Don’t be a robot. Remember that people have different ideas on how much trick-taking potential is required to open. Right now, the modern era is more about opening with less trick-taking potential then our ancestors. For now, think that 12 HCP or your own evaluation is what is needed to open one of a suit. You can open with less if you wish, and soon, you will develop your own feel on what is enough.
3. Explain the reasoning and logic behind everything. Look at my examples in the first page for context.